01/26/2012 11:02 am ET Updated Mar 27, 2012

Newt Gingrich Campaign Admits Candidate Was Wrong On Claim About 'Open Marriage' Allegations

WASHINGTON -- The Newt Gingrich campaign has admitted the candidate was wrong when he claimed the campaign had provided character witnesses to rebut his second ex-wife's claim Gringrich wanted an "open marriage."

In a Jan. 19 debate in Charleston, S.C., CNN's John King asked Gingrich to respond to a story on ABC's "Nightline" where Ms. Gingrich alleged that the former House speaker wanted an "open marriage" with her and Callista Bisek, who later became his wife.

Gingrich boomed at King that he was "astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate."

"This story is false. Every personal friend I had in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They're attacking the governor, they're attacking me, I'm sure they'll get around to Sen. Santorum, and Congressman Paul. I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans," he said to raucous applause.

The exchange quickly went viral, and two days later, Gingrich won the South Carolina primary in a landslide -- an improbable outcome just days before.

Gingrich continued to insist that he offered witnesses to ABC. In a CNN interview Wednesday, he said that ABC's claim that no character witnesses were offered was "just plain baloney."

But later, the Gingrich campaign admitted that the candidate was wrong. CNN reported Wednesday that after "persistent" questioning, spokesman R.C. Hammond said that the campaign only offered the speaker's two daughters from his first marriage, who were both included in ABC's story.